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Myra, January 1, 1960:
A busy but enjoyable day has passed since I began this page -- and so too has another year which on the whole has been another good one. It has dealt harshly with me at times, but before its close brought forth a joyful renascence of love and understanding in our lives. So 1959, the last of another decade ends jubilantly! My only cause for remorse is my weakness in exposing you to unnecessary alarm and helpless concern. For which forgive me. [See October 15 of last year.] The '40s were a fateful ten years, bringing college days, tuberculosis, marriage, and two children before their close. The '50s brought a mighty economic endeavor (on your part as well) our home, and four more sons. Life has been lavishly kind to me these twenty years. God (and the rulers of this world) willing, “the best is yet to be.”
RJL writes just after Myra has left Florida to return to Minnesota:
Oh that you were here! But you are on the train near Jacksonville. I was so lonesome to return to this empty house, redolent of immediate memories of our precious daughter. I can see you right here in the living room, patiently helping the boys with their lessons. . . . In my last minutes of “clearing up,” I failed to remove the chair in which you lay on the lakeside this afternoon. But no Myra was in it when we got back. Inside the house, we seem to have done a good job -- save that we ate sandwiches you made. So we watched the train roll away and take with it 50% of our earthly treasure -- but pleased the other 50% wrote to us two times while you were here! It is always the folks left behind who feel saddest at a parting. We are too lonely even to put on a Hi-Fi record -- or to write! . . . When you left here last year, we knew it would be nearly a year before we could see you again. But this time we are comforted by the knowledge that, deus volens, we shall see you again come August. But when I count the days, they total close to 180 -- which is a lot of days. This letter begins a news series -- note the serial number 1 on the on page 1. There won't be 48 in this series. But how wonderful to have you face-to-face for 10 days!!
Myra writing about #5, March 1, 1960:
The pictures I took in Jeff's camera of the last wrestling match on the lake edge [at G'pa's house in Florida] will be no good. Lukee, on an evil day, pulled the camera apart. On that same day, he allowed the cat to catch Jeff's hamster, knocked over a lamp, and let the car door swing open against a mail box shattering the window. None of these things was intentionally done -- but when the lamp was knocked over about 5:30 p.m., he saw me coming with fire in my eyes and said, “I think I'll go to bed.”
Myra describes how little Roger knew about his own finances, March 11, 1960:
Since my return [from the trip to Florida] Roger has decided to take over the responsibility of 'keeping books.' When he met the Clinic businessman a few weeks ago to determine his income tax he was embarrassed to find how little he knew about his own financial situation. He quite stunned the gentleman by being unable to answer such an apparently simple question as “What was your salary last year, Doctor?” He honestly didn't know."
RJL on the news of the day, March 11, 1960:
Radio is now telling about Pioneer V which left Cape Canaveral this morning. I say we got no biz out there! And now it is about Cuba and Castro who proves to be a bad boy. And then what will happen in Russia when the General gets there. And 1" of snow in Augusta, Georgia. And the General wants to raise P.O. rates again. Thought the GOP was going to lower taxes. And the 18 poor miners in W. Va. seemed doomed. And two men raised from the dead in Agadiz. And so the news helps me close BB #3. Love to all from Grandpa and Monnie.
RJL on the news about Gary Powers, May 8, 1960:
Somewhat upset by the news that the Rooshians have shot down one of our planes far inside Sovietland. [Referring to American U-2 reconnaissance plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, shot down over Soviet territory on May 1st. Government called it a "weather plane" for a little while, then admitted it was a spy plane on May 7th.] Bad part is that we got caught in a spy mission and I sure am sorry for the young man in that plane. We can only await for the effect on the 'summit,' for which I have never entertained much hope anyway. Things international have looked a bit better in the last year, but now they are all mixed up again. . . . Have you been as bored, if not amazed, as I by all the propaganda on behalf o” 'Meg & Tony”? [Marrying British royals] Who gives a single damn whether they get married or not? The fool English, to tax themselves for the support of that worthless couple -- or all royalty for that matter. I'm a bloody democrat.
Myra, with more thoughts on #5, May 31, 1960:
Two new Lukee-isms: He asked Kip to give him a watermelon seed for his own garden, which Kip of course did. As Lukee bounded off to plant it, he declared, “Kip, you're very pleasant.” He had cooked prunes yesterday for the first time. When I asked him how he liked them this way, he said, “They're all right, but I like them better just the way they're born.” Oh, yes, a couple more: I asked him a question one day which he was slow in answering -- out of negligence I supposed. “Is that the way you'll answer teacher's questions in school next year?” “I'll just tell her, ‘Now you sit down and relax while I'm thinking, Mrs. Green.’” What a boy! Nothing is gray; all is violent extremes. “I almost drowned in the bathtub today!!!”, “I walked a million million miles!!!”, “I scrubbed my teeth like Samson!” And he is subtle and diplomatic. If I try to serve him cooked oatmeal for breakfast, he'll say, “Thank you anyway, love-y Mother, but I'll have Cheerios. Just the same, you're very sweet.” . . . Rain has trapped everyone inside since 10:00 a.m. and, everyone being in a querulous mood, it has been most unpleasant. My older boys maintain that other families quarrel equally as often, but I am dubious. Such times as these I am tempted to send them to the TV set with my blessings.
Myra, June 12, 1960, Sunday:
[In huge letters only four words on the page:] "Caesar died this morning." • At around ten in the morning, Dan and I found Caesar, our collie, dying in that portion of the lawn we called the "Hot Dog," and ran inside with the terrible news. He died pretty much right then and there. He was a well-loved family dog, purchased long before my birth from a kennel southeast of Rochester (originally named "Froyum Scott Charmer") where he'd been "doing stud work;" way back when the family still lived at the Morris Farm. For years and years afterwards, there were grumblings that his sudden, unexpected death was caused by the "mean old Bollman grandparents," whose back yard and garden was contiguous with our property, and that maybe they had fed him "orange dog food" because Caesar had dug holes in their garden. We buried him over in the pine grove near the garden. This incident stayed with the older brothers for years and years. Chris mentioned both Caesar's birthday and the day of his death in his 1968 diary. Jeff, too, mentioned this sad day in his '68 diary. And I had this day marked on a calendar that hung in my room as late as 1969.
Myra describes the day of Caesar’s death, June 16, 1960:
Our house has been so mournful since Sunday morning that we've followed none of our usual pursuits. I've had no heart in me for anything. The boys seem to be getting over their anguish but Roger and I, who hid our own tears on June 12, seem to miss Caesar more every day. I continue to find the inevitable marks of his living days -- a trail of tracks on the basement floor, a tuft of his winter's undercoat beside the pine he loved to rub against, his water bucket -- and my own unconscious putting aside of food scraps. When Roger came home from work Monday he was so long getting out of the car I went out to see what was the matter. There were tears in his eyes as he explained the vacant feeling of not having Caesar meet him as he unfailingly did. Too many times I've thought I heard his toenails on the basement steps or stepped cautiously through the dark hall at night to avoid stumbling over him -- I can scarcely write about it. I miss him so very much -- the yard seems spiritless without his beautiful loving presence. We don't know what caused his death. He appeared to be well when Roger let him out on his way to work Sunday morning. About 10:00 Luke and Dan came running crying that Caesar was dead. He was lying quite naturally near the screen porch. But when I reached him I could see that he was very near death. His tongue was cyanotic, he eyes open but unseeing, apparently in a coma, and only breathing spasmodically. I woke Kip and Jeff and then called Roger. But the time he got home Caesar had already drawn his last breath. He was dead -- our much loved Ceasar. When Roger kissed him and stood up -- we all knew that the dread day we had spoken of fearfully as in the hope of its being many years yet distant had truly come. Our good dog was gone. The terrible screwed-up look on Kip's face as he tried not to cry was heartbreaking. If Caesar favored any of the boys it was Kip and it was Kip who always made certain Caesar had water. Kip and Roger lifted him onto the wagon and took him to a cool corner in the pine grove. He and Roger dug Ceasar's grave and during the long while it took the rest of us stood and looked at his beloved form for the last time. He looked so alive. Even Colly was unnaturally quiet during the actual ceremony of putting Caesar in his grave and covering him up. Roger admitted later that when the first scattering of dirt went down over his body, Roger could have cried out loud. The hard task was done and stalwart Kip had never flinched from his chore though the tears were unashamedly running before his task was done. Jeff and Christy brought from behind the tool shed a cement pedestal (of an old bird bath) that had been preserved for this purpose since 1954. It stands beside the mound as an eternal reminder to us of a dog we'll never forget. We've planted greens we hope will grow over the grave -- and now we are in those first difficult days of trying not to remind ourselves or each other of him till we have eased oursleves into a habit of living without him. That is especially hard for me with Roger out of town. I've never been very uneasy if Caesar were with me. But now I feel so wholly responsible and inadequate. I feel as though I've gone to sleep with the doors unlocked.
Same day, same letter:
Later -- We came to two decisions in the hours that followed Caesar's death -- we must get another dog and it must not be a collie. Our next dog will for a long time suffer by comparison with his predecessor. No dog can suit us so exactly as Caesar did -- he was perfect. I avoid too much comparing and because the sight of all collies is painful just now, we've decided to get an Irish wolf-hound. They are very difficult to find -- but when available are usually out of a champion line. The only contact we have been able to make is with a breeder in Virginia. But last night we discovered that there is another in Wayzata (a suburb of Minneapolis). I've written tonight to inquire about the price.
RJL, June 21, 1960:
I stopped YW [yard work] when the mail came, and there were several to answer, but the important one of course was yours, which I read aloud (with some difficulty at places where you spoke of good old Caesar, for tears got in my voice, too), and which I now read again for Commentary: 1.) Your description of the days following Caesar's decease is poignant. How one can come to love a “poor dumb animal!” John Wesley saw no reason why their souls may not survive. And why not?
Myra, on the final purchase of our new dog, an Irish Wolfhound, named “Pagan,” July 2, 1960:
[The kennel lady] kept us sitting in her lake shore house for almost 45 minutes before she suggested we see the dogs. Our first sight of an Irish Wolfhound was breathtaking! Though you may be fully prepared for the size of a full-grown male, nonetheless you are overwhelmed by him. They are magnificent animals! She had six adults -- as well as five of the six puppies in this litter still there. It's like beholding a pride of lions to see her wolfhounds standing together. Yet after a brief introduction, we could pat them and walk among them. The pup she had chosen for us was the biggest and most rugged. The breeding of the litter is superb! His mother is an American champion -- his uncle is a champion in three countries -- his father is the international champion. In 1960 he won the world's most famous dog show (Crufts of England) against 7,200 entries! We are impressed, obviously. The name has now become Pagan Chulainn. (If your knowledge of Irish literature is as good as mine, you'll need to be told that Chulainn -- pronounced 'Coo-lane' -- is the hero of a great Irish saga.) The fence is begun, the plans are laid! Despite the eagerness with which we await him, the poor dog comes to The Millstone with the strikes against him. He has such big paw tracks to fill.
Pagan went on to be, with Caesar and later Hershey Bar, one of the biggest, best remembered, most loved dogs in Sullivan history. His greatest legacy was perhaps the use of his name in my brother's '60s rock and roll band "The Pagans," about whom there'll be more later. But overall, for a dog as large and noble and dignified as an Irish Wolfhound, I can't say that we (the six brothers at least) gave him a lot of respect. We called him all kinds of demeaning nicknames: Beelow-Bayla (La-da-dee-da), Bogen, The Old Bog, and in later years Bletch. We made fun of the way he woke up. Of his black lips. The youngest brothers used to ride him like a horse. We made fun of the fact that he was mortally fearful of thunder and lightning. He would crawl under Mom's bed during big storms. In his adult years he had a permanent case of Wanderlust so incurable we had to put up fencing around every square inch of our four acres, and then install a huge, fussy gate with a pull-chain opening device that could be operated from a car window. It always pissed Dad off when Pagan got out, and capturing him always was a minimum 45-minute job. We eventually got him a mate, called "Ceithle" and we hoped for a litter that never came. For some reason, we didn't keep Ceithle for more than a year or so. (Mom told me later that Dad gave her back when the family was living out at Elton Hills.) But Pagan moved with us to the Hill House in 1967. He was 12 years old when he died in 1971. We cremated him. I know we buried him under the willow closest to the garage at Hill House. And as a marker, we wrapped his collar around the trunk of the tree. The collar is now buried deep inside the trunk of that old willow; a tree which itself doesn't have many years left. I visited the Hill House the summer of 1990 and while it was then very large, it seemed to be dying.
RJL on the DFL conventions, July 13, 1960:
[Written as he watched Democratic National Convention on his rented TV:] Your senator is now making speech to nominate Adlai [Stevenson]. . . . the people turned down Adlai in 1952 and '56 for a cussed golfer and bridge player. I'm sorry they are trying to run him again, just to be turned down in the convention. Tragedy, say I. Well, we clapped our futile hands and cheered when Adlai was named. We'll never forget that noble and gracious man, with whom it was our honor and privilege to spend a day in 1956 [Grandpa was one of the top organizers in Florida for Stevensen's '56 bid] -- just after Adlai had an interview at his hotel -- how we do love that man! Strange, too. He is the only man since T. R. who has moved my heart -- Mrs. FDR now speaking, and I think of you having met her. . . . [written later, at 1:00 a.m.] It's all over and the South will not vote for a Roman Catholic and the Civil Rights plank. Prepare yourself for Tricky Dick and 8 long years. I weep.
Myra on the DFL convention, July 14, 1960:
Kip and I were up till 2:00 last night watching the convention. Roger tired before the roll call began, Jeff found by 12:00 that even the privilege of staying up to watch history march was more than he really wanted. But Kip and I and Pagan were firm to the last -- even though it was so cold we had to wear coats! (TV is on screen porch.) The proceedings were kept exciting by a series of events: the great ovation for Stevenson, the 'debate' between Johnson and Kennedy -- and the Huntley-Brinkley team.
RJL, on the subject of television, July 16, 1960:
Your mother is reading the morning paper (TV section) telling me what is in store for us tonight -- tomorrow the man comes to reclaim his instrument and he will be welcome. The summer I spent with my sister at the River View Hotel familiarized me with TV of that time and I recall there was an 'Ed Sullivan Show' which your mother has just announced and I recall how annoyed I was by the mannerisms of that Sullivan feller -- but do I wish I had his ability to make a million a year. Also ur M sez “What's My Line?” and I recall that program with pleasure as having a very charming female named Arlene Francis on it. It comes on at 10:30 and I say mebbie I'll stay up and see how she has aged. . . . Clever woman anyhow, and the program is clever, too.
RJL on “Tricky Dick,” July 25, 1960:
I note your comment on the Dem. Convention, i.e. that LBJ should have had first place and JFK the 2nd. In that we of course concur. We also incline to agree with you that we shall have to vote for the Dems rather than for Tricky Dickie whose very name is anathema to me, though perhaps I would be hard put to justify my prejudice. I have too many friends who will vote for him for me to set myself up as wholly right or even rational in my opinion. But I am reminded of the old rhyme: “I do not like thee, Dr. Fell. The reason why I cannot tell. But this I know and know full well. I do not like thee Dr. Fell.” • If only dear old Grandpa could have lived to see Nixon take the fall in August of '74.
RJL, August 9, 1960, 1960:
Decided to have about 35 pages of Bromm's work duplicated in some process called “Xerox” and cost of only 5¢ per page.
Myra, August 12, 1960, 1960:
Roger has gone to the Cities for a peaceful two days -- so I'm taking the boys to a drive-in for supper. It's expensive but a help to me right now. • These little "vacations" start cropping up in Mom's letters around now from time to time. Mom doesn't seem to think anything of them; at least she doesn't mention it in her letters. But Dad suddenly takes off, leaving Mom with six boys to take care of while he "unwinds" in a nice hotel in the Twin Cities.
RJL, again on Tricky Dick, September 24, 1960:
I do not rate the danger of another St. Bartholomew's Eve as high as I do the misfortune of electing to the presidency so smooth and unscrupulous a character as Tricky Dickie. I'll take my chances with the pope for at least four years. And, I am fully prepared to believe, as of now, that I should have to spend the next 8 years, towards the close of my existence, under the rule of just such a crook as TD. I have threatened to move to British Columbia if TD goes to power. How about joining me there?
RJL continues about politics, September 26, 1960:
Tonight, I may stay on campus [of Stetson] until the 9:30 TV show and take a look at TD and Kennedy. There is a TV in the Union faculty room which I can 'attend', or so I suppose. Your mother sez she would not waste the time on ski-nose -- but I can obliterate that objectionable feature, perhaps, by an attention to how the two project themselves. I suspect that this series of 4 appearances will be quite important. I see that the latest Gallup poll puts them at 45 all. I still say that TD will win. The handicap of civil rights and RC is too much for the PT boat captain to overcome.
The top 10 TV shows of the '60 - '61 season were Gunsmoke, followed by Wagon Train, Have Gun Will Travel, The Andy Griffith Show, The Real McCoys, Rawhide, Candid Camera, The Untouchables, The Price Is Right, and The Jack Benny Show.
RJL gives a minute-by-minute accounting of the Nixon v. Kennedy election of 1960, November 7:
[Grandpa fills nearly five pages of a letter as he stays up almost all night on election night, watching the returns come in.] Mid-night. And the news boys keep inferring that K will win. But I'm staying up a bit longer. K has now only 18 more electoral votes to go. I begin to suspect that he will be our next president. If so, I have voted for a winner for the 1st time since 1944. . . . 2:20 a.m. Still no decisions. I said it would be settled when N.Y. reported, but I was sure wrong. That cuss could yet win. I felt pretty good at midnight. But dawn threatens (at least in my imagination) and I am not so happy. . . . 2:50. TD carries Ohio and I weep. This could get serious. I've been sitting here 7 hours. Nuts. . . . 3:20 a.m. Nixon did not concede, but I grant he made a good speech. He came close to a concession but not quite. Now where are we?? I know I ought to go to bed. Your mother gave up an hour ago. . . . 5:00 a.m. Will I ever get to bed? TD increases his vote in Ill., Mich., and Minn. Boy oh boy, am I going to lose!. . . . 5:22 a.m. Jack has still not tied it up. . . . 6:30 a.m. Darn it, I'm going to bed. This biz is too dragged out. . . . 7:30 a.m. 1 hour of sleep. Nothing new. . . . Later. Dressed and showered. I judge the broadcasters still hold the Dems ahead by a hair. . . . CBS sez unofficial count gives K the presidency.
RJL, post-election, November 21, 1960:
Strange that here on Nov. 21, two weeks after, the thing [the election, the results of which were briefly contested] is not finally settled. At least so I would suppose, for if the GOP put up the $$$ and proves vote fraud, who knows, ski-nose may even yet be declared the winner. But heaven forbid. How I did relish the TIME quote from Kennedy: “When I first began this campaign, I just wanted to beat Nixon. Now I want to save the country from him.” That is me all over, and that's why I voted for K and so strongly wanted him to win.
RJL, December 3, 1960:
I am certainly sorry CRS was so unhappy on the return trip. I loved every minute of it. How could he fail to respond to the Feather River Gorge and to the Rockies? • Mom says Dad flew out to California alone, but trained back with her. “He hated it,” she recalled. “Drank the whole time."
RJL, January 30, 1961:
My first disappointment in JFK -- at the reception for new government officials, he provided a bar with whisky and champagne. But I understand a large share of the Kennedy family fortune is based on liquor interests, so the action is understandable, though regrettable. Or at least so sez your teetotaling Poppa.
RJL, on America’s first launch into space, May 5, 1961: 8:30 a.m. We have radio on, awaiting news from Cape Canaveral, where our Navy man sits strapped atop a lot of explosive preparatory to taking off in a short flight high up -- hardly to be compared with Gagarin's trip -- if we may believe the Rooshians. Anyhow, we pray for the safety of our first astronaut. At the same time I am obliged to wonder just what value has all this 'reach the moon' biz. I note that many scientists call it a waste of money. 11:15 a.m. Back from shop to town, after listening spellbound as they [can't read] our astronaut and his brave feat. Have a mind to ask Helen S. to let us see it on her TV this evening. Rarely do I want a TV but this a.m. was one such time.
RJL, on the “Rooshians,” August 7, 1961: Did the Rooshians have a man in orbit for some 20 hours or are they the usual colossal liars? I fear that they tell the truth this time. Amazing feat! One shudders.
RJL, after a visit to “the ‘Stone,” September 23, 1961: Just six days ago we bid you goodbye and turned our faces southward. So brief the stay with you but we are grateful for it. Fate has prescribed that we do well to see one another 20 days out of 365. [Mom writes in 1992: "I should NEVER have allowed that to happen!"] With heavy hearts, 1,500 miles from you, we realize that over eleven months must elapse before we are together again! I spent some time on the sermons of Roger's father, arranging them in proper sequence, smoothing out creases, etc. I believe that I can bind them into one good volume. But size of paper varies and the fore-edge will be quite unequal. [I have this bound volume of my paternal grandfather's sermons: droning, pious, religious nonsense, page after page. Later the letter continues:] Thursday night, however, was the great long distance call when we talked with you and Jim. Great event! We think almost hourly of our visit with you and of the things we did while there. You mother really did something for you, but about all I did was to accompany you on trips to town -- and to sew and bind four volumes for you. We have commented several times on the 'new boy' seen in Jeff. That pleases us to no end. And little Chris, despite some of his troubles, was such a friendly grandson. We agree that you have a fine family of boys and have done excellently in raising so many, to the present stage, so well.
Same day, Myra writes after they have left:
Dearest Momma and Poppa: For 18 days I've known where you were and what you were doing -- but no longer. You are several hundred miles south of me now and though you are momentarily stretching the distance between us which will soon be 1,500 long miles, the unspannable separation was complete when your car disappeared over the hill. I thought fleetingly of following you a part of the way -- but one must be able to see to drive. So I hitched the gate behind you and ran to the front yard for a last glimpse of your car. Then you were truly gone! These are cruel moments. That we should have eighteen days together out of 365 is an unjust fate.
Myra, on fallout shelters, September 27, Wednesday:
The Claydon's and the Wiedman's are the latest in our neighborhood to begin construction of [atomic fallout] shelters. The contractor who is building Claydon's says he put in 50 shelters last month! It may well be that we will never need a shelter or may never survive in even the strongest of shelters, but I cannot gamble on the chance that inexpensive shelter to save my family. Every time I go to town I check off a few more items from my list of necessary things for such an effort to save ourselves. And I pray that everything I have bought will never be needed. What an ugly way to live!" [Later on she does some figuring:] 4 weeks: 65 cans veg., 65 cans fruit, 45 cans meat, . . .
An undated sign made in Kip's handwriting:
Attention. Anybody caught calling a NAME will deposit one dime (for Luke it is 5¢) into this jar. There must be two witnesses. The money in the jar will go to the guy or guys who can keep his "yap" shut for three days. (From 10:00 Friday to 10:00 Monday.)
RJL on fallout shelters, October 2, 1961:
I, too, have found it difficult to read almost anything since I got home. I cannot bring myself to believe that nuclear warfare impends. But nevertheless there is the possibility and I find myself in grim contemplation of the consequences. . . . Much interested in diagram of plans for fall-out shelter for your basement. Looks very satisfactory. But I do not see why the door to furnace-laundry room should be walled. . . . We spent the whole morning in the garage having decided that we had better make a gesture towards Mr. K's missiles. First job was to clean out the place and this is well started. We cannot build what Civil Defense people call “almost 100% proof,” but we feel that maybe we should do something. . . . We continue to debate whether at our advanced age there is any justification for spending money on a fall-out shelter. In the meantime, I continue to get garage/shop ready for something. I am now inclined to believe that all we shall do is run an 8" wall across, separating garage from shop, block the two windows, and erect a baffle at the door. . . Or even more likely, with the best of our lives behind us, and no youngsters to protect, we may gamble that Khrushchev can be bluffed. What a dismal gamble!
RJL, on possibility of moving into a retirement home, October 14:
We have been discussing Wesley Manor for the last hour. It will be open in 15-18 months from now and we may decide to cast our lot there in 1963 or so. It will depend on how much money we can get for the Lake Winnemissett property -- which we will sincerely regret to leave -- if we do.
Myra describes how Roger’s anger ruins another holiday, Thanksgiving, 1961:
We had our turkey dinner Thursday about 5:00. Roger had Emergency that day and did not get home till the turkey was coming out of the oven. He just made it but he was so tired that he was in bed by 7:30. During the afternoon he'd lost an 18-year-old boy, accident victim, because a piece was missing from the Emergency Room oxygen machine. Had he been able to give the boy oxygen, he'd probably have lived. Carelessness like that makes Roger rage -- and in this case it's no wonder. As a result, he was tired and in a bad frame of mind, so Thanksgiving was not altogether happy." [And a day later:] "I must be ready to leave at 12:00 to take Christy to the Emergency Room to have finger x-rayed. Someone fell on it several weeks ago at school and it has stayed painful, swollen, and crooked. I can't interest Roger in it so I'm taking him myself."
RJL responds about Thanksgiving, December 3, 1961:
Do ask CRS and tell me more. I am worried that she has these pains so frequently. . . . I imagine that the careless emergency room attendant who left the oxygen-ator incomplete got the blistering of his life from CRS -- and no wonder." • Mom wrote me years later: "No, he probably didn’t say a thing to the attendant. CRS was gutless."
Myra describes the house at 10:15pm, Christmas Eve, 1961:
My part of Christmas is over! I'm always a bit sad -- or wistful -- when it is time for me to go to bed on Christmas Eve. The room looks so expectant. A pile on each red chair, traditionally Kip's and Jeff's spots -- Christy and Luke on either end of the couch -- Colly's collection beneath the Christmas window -- and Danny's spread out in front of the speaker. Except for Kip and Jeff each has one unwrapped gift. The stockings are stuffed and hanging on the fire screen, which is artfully set askew and on the hearth a glass emptied of its milk and a few cookie crumbs on the plate. The tree looks pretty even with the lights off because of all the white felt decorations. The room is neat and clean -- the manzanita branch hanging with Monnie's shell decorations and gathered on the row of books on the console table the six little Christmas elves. This is Mother's room -- how I do wish you could see it now just before I turn off the carols and go to bed. The last coals of the fire are creaking and rustling. Tomorrow is the great day! Good night, dearest ones, and a Merry Christmas to you both.
Myra, December 26, 1961:
Roger left for a few days vacation in the city. • Cut to the scene in The Shining, the one in the Colorado Room. “Bartender? It's me again.” “The usual, sir?” “Set 'em up, Lloyd. I've been very thirsty.”
Monnie, on NASA activity in nearby Cape Canaveral, January 27, 1962:
Dearest Myra: This is the day John Glenn may leave this world for a few hours at a cost of $400,000,000. Oh! what good that money might have done in medical research alone. Or what suffering that $ might have relieved! . . . “T-minus 45 and hold” is the report from Cape Canaveral. Clouds! If the shot is made soon, we will not see the vapor trail from here because of clouds. We pray for the safety of Glenn. Love, Mother.
Myra, February 19, 1962:
Lukee went to school today burdened with a load of his 'special' books on astronomy, ten of them, and brought them as carefully home 'just in case he should need them overnight.' You should have seen the little mite wrestling his way through the green gate (the little swing gate beside the big gate) with his great sack of books and his lunch bucket. He brought the books to the steps and then went back to sit in and throw himself across the high snow plowed up from the driveway. He has lost one front tooth and the other hangs loose. He sits at the kitchen table with me now as I write, drawing pictures of Fort McHenry. Colly comes up now to examine our solar system mobile. He calls Mars "Morris" (which Luke approves of over his earlier 'Miracle Mile') no -- I'm wrong -- it's Mercury he calls 'Miracle Mile.' "Miracle Mile, Benus, Erf, and Morris'. They all have such a new interest in the planets that I can hardly wait for the summer to come with its long warm nights. Will you ever forget Jeff's gasp when he looked at Saturn a few summers ago?
Myra describes watching her six boys play in the deep Minnesota snow, February 22, 1962:
There has been so much snow in the past week that the boys have been outside most of the time. They've built a long winding bob-sled run on the hill, beginning on a mountainous pile of snow packed and frozen with buckets of water. That being complete, they are now busy piling snow around the swing set. I guess their intention is to leap into it from the top of the swings. Kip is shoveling and as I watch he lifts the snow from the wall just outside the kitchen window -- shovelsful nearly 24" high. There are four boys out there -- Kip, Christy, Danny, and even pink-cheeked, runny-nosed Colly. You should see them now! Kip is lifting Colly high and simply pitching him across the yard. He lies giggling and nearly as helpless as an upside-down turtle! The jumping has now been refined by flips and twists -- Danny has shoveled a heap of snow at the foot of the ladder for Colly to leap into. He climbs to the top rung, stands teetering for a moment, then out and down he goes into the snow. There he sits up to his arm pits in snow laughing at Danny -- dear Danny who is so generous with his smiles and time. Now he has to shovel away snow to let Colly out, then fill up the hole while Colly climbs back up for another leap -- Colly's mitten has come off and he bellows. Kip to the rescue which means peeling off his gloves (7˚) -- Dan is standing on the swings now, a little fearful but grinning like an urchin with his black eye. Down he goes and there he's stuck like a candle in a birthday cake. Kip throws him a swing chain and he hauls himself out for another dive. It's 5:15 and the sun's rays light horizontally. • And there this letter ends. One of my very favorite of Mom's many letters. Just a simple description, but I get a perfect picture of four boys playing in the fluffy Minnesota snow of a winter thirty years gone -- and of the mother perched high up in the green kitchen window, looking out, and then looking down to write.
Myra, March 3, 1962:
The dumbell who came to plow this morning left the gate open and gone are both the dogs. Someone on the West Salem Road called to report them -- and Roger has gone to . . . he's been back and off again, too mad to explain anything.
Myra describes #6, March 7, 1962:
I went into [Colly's] room about 2:00 AM several nights ago when he woke. He doesn't cry but his private conversations are so noisy I'm afraid he'll waken the others. I climbed onto the other bed waiting for him to go back to sleep, but finally fell asleep myself when he was still singing, whistling, and talking. He has a humorous way of carrying on a two-sided conversation with a distinct change of voices. “Peter Pan. Peter Pan. Answer me!” “What, Collin Charles?” “Do you know what happened to our Loki?” “No, what?” “She had a sore leg. Isn't that too bad?” “Yes, Collin Charles.” “Hey, Piglet!” “Yes, Colly?” “Do you know what my big brother Kip can do?” “No, what?” “He can play ‘Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight’ on the guitar, wif his thumb!” “That's good!”
Myra describes getting a hair-do she doesn’t like to please Roger, April 2, 1962:
I have delayed telling you this bit of news hoping Roger would take a picture to reveal it dramatically -- but the picture is not taken so I discover this to you in a BB: I have had my hair cut. It hurts me even to write it but such is the bald fact. Roger has never liked my hair in a roll and at every opportunity would pull out the pins to let it hang free. Said I looked like a missionary and only lacked a tambourine to pass for a Salvation Army lass. Three weeks ago I had it cut off and a permanent put in. While I admit it is very attractive immediately after coming from the beauty parlor, it's not worth all the daily work to keep it looking nice! I hate it -- but my husband likes it -- so what else can I do?" • Mom added this note during the editing process on this manuscript: He was unappeasable! In college days when I brought to OWU campus my Florida fashions, he was embarrassed that his friends called me “El Gitano” (the Gypsy). By 1962, I was disapproved of for wearing my hair “like a missionary.”
Myra, April 23, 1962:
Sunday we leave for three days in Chicago. He stands firm in his decision to go with me by train. But I can't decide which is worse -- to endure the anxieties of flying or his animadversions and psychotic ravings aboard the train.
Myra, more observations on Roger’s anger, May 6, Sunday:
[In this letter she's recounting the dreaded trip to Chicago, where Dad agreed to taking the train with Mom, but made her feel bad about it all the way there.] We left for the train station at 11:30. Upon arrival, we were informed that the trains that day began running on daylight-savings time and had been gone a half hour. We were abandoned beside the tracks. The only solution to our dilemma occurred to me before [it occurred] to Roger because his thinking processes were momentarily blocked by anger. But in minutes I could see him relaxing -- he was seeing the solution so much in line with his own preferences. Credit must be given him that he gave me the choice of flying with him at 2:45 or waiting for the noon train the next day -- and credit must be given my courage for going with him. • Poor Myra, still trying to defend Roger’s behavior to her parents.
RJL, on his love/hate relationship with TV, or “Cyclops” as he styled it, May 7, Monday:
...To all of which has been added recently that monster, the TV. I will confess that for two and one quarter hours last night it captivated us with an Agatha Christie who-dun-it, with Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich. Well, Agatha must be (or have been) a smart woman for this “Witness for the Prosecution” was a very clever piece of writing, and admirably acted. We are descending slowly, and, I fear, ineluctably, to the common level. Pray for us.
RJL, on the passing of time, May 19, 1962:
Yes, it is a “swift and narrow path” we tread. Hard to believe that you are already half-way down it! And for me, the shadows sure are falling to the East (to borrow a phrase from Ingersoll).
RJL, excited about an upcoming visit from Myra, May 22, 1962, Tuesday:
You can imagine the excitement at Lake Winnemissett!! The news that you and 3 or 4 grandchildren may be here for two weeks leaves us breathless. Already extensive plans are being laid. I have inspected 610 and contiguous garage and about decided to fix up the latter. We'll put you and Colly in your mother's room, and she will use roll-away bed in living room. Can hardly wait. Hurray for everybody!!!!!!"
Monnie’s diary, May 23, 1962:
Wire from Myra “Forgive me. I have been too hasty. Something may yet work out. Love -- Myra.”
RJL gives a minute-by-minute account of a NASA flight:
We sit before TV awaiting the 'blast off' and probably, nay, certainly you and Jim are doing the same. I just said to your mother “They don't need to add 'Florida' whenever they speak of Cape Canaveral,” a protuberance almost unknown a few years ago. It so happens that I have been there but once -- in a kind of trip many years ago. Sixty or seventy years ago, some northern sportsmen maintained a large “hunting lodge” just about where the capsule now rests. These duck hunters did not envisage the same! Six minutes and 45 seconds to launch time. We watch the crowd in Grand Central Station in New York City as they watch a TV screen! I'm glad our Jim is not atop that monster! I can see you and family anxiously watching. What do you suppose Scott Carpenter is thinking. Tension grows. 1 min. to launch. T-40 sec. 35 sec. 25 sec. 19 sec. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ignition!!!!!!!!!!!! What a sight! 2 min. and 7 sec in flight. Booster engine jettisoned. “My status is good,” Carpenter reported as saying. 4:55 sec. “All systems are go.” Capsule separation. He is in orbit. He is weightless. Due over Canary islands in 4&1/2 minutes. . . . 9:25 Once around the world and now over the Atlantic again. I have been listening but not looking, using the time to get a paperback in jacket and preparing another. . . . 12:30 p.m. In a very few minutes, our astronaut will be entering the atmosphere -- perhaps most dangerous time of all -- contact with him now lost (due to ionization around capsule) -- tension mounts. -- now at altitude 100,000 feet -- they figure -- parachute opens very soon. 12:35 Contact not yet established. 12:37 Nor yet. Tension! Tension! It is interesting to watch the crowd in Grand Central Station. 12:41 Still no word. 12:43 Still no word. Space craft must be down, perhaps 120 miles from the Intrepid and planes are off in search. 12:51 Yet no contact. Are we in trouble? Been down 10 minutes. I've got to go to my class in 20 minutes. And probably before the recovery. 1:05 Still no word. We are getting nervous. 3:40 Helicopter has picked up Carpenter. I had to leave at 1:15, just before the report was broadcast that he had been discovered.
RJL, writing right after Myra and 4 youngest have left Florida for Minnesota, June 28, 1962:
1:00 p.m. Dear childer: As I write, Jim and crew are about 6&1/2 hours on the way to Philadelphia which I judge means they have covered some 275 miles, and Myra and tribe are nearing Louisville, Ky. We know that she is a lot safer than Jim's are are concerned accordingly. We shall await a wire from Aldan to remove our anxiety. We left the hotel 15 minutes after Jim pulled out (he at 5:15) and we had watched him and the 'Big M' [name for his Mercury] cross the bridge, arm out waving goodbye. The previous 3:10 PM we had watched Myra's train start northward from the little dusty railroad station called DeLand Junction. Sad we were to hustle her four and self on board, but I hope it was out of the heat of that station platform into an air-conditioned Pullman. The light was such that we could not see Myra as the train pulled out, but we could see two of the boys. So now it is all over, that to which we had looked forward so eagerly for weeks. It was WONDERFUL to have you both here at the same time, though of course we did miss the two oldest Sullivans. . . . Of course when we got back to Lake Winnemissett, there were several unavoidable items to remind us of Myra's so-recent presence, e.g. the chair by the lakeside where she tootled on her recorder and read in the sun. Otherwise I had done a pretty good job on the premises before she left. When a few moments ago I read the blessing, it was only to remember that right there at that table she sat just 24 hours ago, and now, lo! where is she? In cussed Kentucky. And where is Jim whom we hugged at 5:15? Rushing madly northwards with heavy foot, despite my instructions! Got no control any more over my own youngsters."
RJL, still missing his daughter, June 30, 1962:
If only I could look out window and see you sitting there in lawn chair tootling on your recorder. But alas! Sister is 1,500 miles away and who can say when we shall be together again? After a few weeks, one becomes sort of accustomed to writing rather than speaking and seeing. But your departure is so fresh in mind that no accommodation to our lot has yet taken place. It is just plum sad that fate has so far separated us. I said to your mother at the supper table (over some of your wonderful bread and jelly), “I wish we could live somewhere near to Myra!” But it is a vain wish. Here on Lake Winnemissett we shall remain, even as you in faraway Rochester. Away with such gloomy thoughts. . . . There were so many things I planned to do or talk of, while you were here -- and failed to, e.g. I have just been at work on my Greek and planned to have some “Greek talk,” but we never got to it. I planned to go over the books from Myron T. Pritchard's library -- but never did. We have so many common interests -- and so small an opportunity to discuss them. This is a lonesome place without you. I have just looked at your picture in the Kodachrome which is always on the end-table, and am homesick for Sister.
Myra describes life at the Millstone, July 16, 1962:
This is no place for anyone with weak nerves. Grandma [Dad's mom] escapes to her room occasionally -- but her place is filled by a couple visitors coming through the gate. For hours a day, there are 10 or 12 vigorous, tireless, noisy males teeming and seething and leaping within these gates. There are three great dogs barking or chasing one another -- there are horses being led in or out of the pasture or saddled or unsaddled -- there are guinea pigs being fed or hamsters being diligently sought in gopher holes in the back yard -- lawn mowers roaring back and forth and a boy or two being pitched screaming and kicking fully-clothed into the swimming pool -- a frantic search for the plug from the horse trough -- the Hi-Fi at top volume playing “Twisting and Turning with Duane somebody.” It's indescribable. You'd have to be here to believe it! The biggest activity in the last week has been the creating of a swimming pool. Last Wednesday the boys began hauling all the rocks out of the old fish-pond. The small rocks were transported to a heap in the pasture -- the larger ones laid out around the pool as a terrace. Then began the effort to clean out the pool and open the up the drain --several years of muck and mud had collected on the bottom and plugged the drain. You'd have been pleased to see how many hours a day the boys worked together on a muddy, back-breaking frustrating job -- without bickering or despair. By Saturday afternoon the job was nearly done -- every tool from the shed and most of them from the work-room were scattered across the back yard -- not a clean broom or mop was to be had for house use -- but the job was nearly done. Saturday afternoon Roger cemented in some cement blocks for stairs and Kip cemented together some of the large stones around the edge. Late Sat and all Sun morning and early afternoon were spent in final cleaning of the sides and bottom. At 3:00 the long-awaited moment of dipping in the first paint brush came. Everyone (even Colly with a 1" brush) had his turn painting sides and bottom of the pool. Bt suppertime it was done and how nice it does look! Noon time today the faucet in the basement is to be turned on for the official beginning of its use as a pool. The first spout will bring triumphant shouts. (The center post -- you may remember it -- was dismantled with crow bar and pick, and the pipe cut off 3" from bottom and surrounded with a protective mound of cement.
RJL on Cyclops, July 22, 1962:
Stay tuned for "Bonanza" whatever that is, but your mother says you will be watching it so we shall, too. I spent half an hour on lake after sunset, but most of evening we have been captives of Cyclops, and am not better for it.
RJL grumbles about the state of American culture, August 11, 1962:
While your mother was filling grocery cart, I paused at magazine section -- and was moved to record part of what I saw!! Ten, no less, movie mags -- I was shocked at such a revelation of American taste and IQ. I counted 'em -- ten -- from “Screen Stars” on down to “Movie Stars”! Are we that superficial a people? But then my eye moved to the next rack -- and could not resist copying these illustrations of modern display for our youth -- hold your breff!: Esquire – “A Sexy Look At The Right Wing.” Personal Romance – “Teach Me How To Kiss.” Secrets – “I Slept Alone On My Wedding Night.” Daring Romance – “We Never Had Our Wedding Night, Though Wed A Year.” True Love – “My Mother's Affair.” Modern Romance – “Mine Is a Guilty Sin.” True Story – “Should I Refuse My Husband's Demands?” And True Confessions – “Is Liz Taylor Guilty?” I submit: we are going to hell in a wheelbarrow.
RJL, on Sunday’s TV schedule September 16, 1962:
Your mother makes up schedule for Cyclops on Sunday: 1:00 Pro football (because you and Jim say so) 1:30 Inside Politics 2:30 Adlai (bless him) 3:00 Issues & Answers 3:30 Pro football 6:30 A Way Of Thinking 8:00 Ed Sullivan 9:30 Who's Who 10:00 Jack himself 10:30 Arlene, my favorite gal [What's My Line] 11:00 To bed.
RJL’s first mention of what became the Cuban Missile Crisis, September 26, 1962:
TV carries horrifying reports from Mississippi. Poor Jack is in a fix. Whatever he does will bring damnation down upon him. One commentator said tonight that the situation is the worst since 1861. On top of that, those cussed Russians are putting Cuba up to mischief and our fire-brands are calling for war. Unbelievable. So our world is in a perilous state.
RJL, October 1, 1962:
Our nation is disgraced by the student riot in Mississippi last night. I am sick about it.
RJL, on Cuban Missile Crisis, October 9:
Now and then we watch Cyclops for a few minutes, sort of fascinated by the depth to which we have fallen. Of course we turn Cyclops' one eye shut as soon as we can disentangle. Horror of horrors.
Myra describes five of her boys practicing singing in a band, October, 1962:
Five of the brothers formed this little band and we sang folk songs. At one of the performances (usually in the sick-wards at St. Mary's Hospital), during a song with the lyric "Poor Tom with no skin on", I crept through the audience wearing an old Halloween skeleton costume. Another song we sang was a popular folk ditty called "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On the Bed Post Overnight?" Wednesday or Thursday of this week they are playing for a picnic -- picnic for para- and hemi-plegics, iron-lung patients and wheelchair patients at the hospital. So there are practice sessions two or three times a day. The practicing is a show in itself. There they are -- singing and playing music -- smiles on all faces --- the picture of happiness; then before the last notes fade away, Kip is hollering at somebody for mistakes, the accused defends himself in equally loud tones and all is declared war with “no sides.” Then, with the tapping of Kip's heel -- sunshine and gaiety again? And then in a later letter about another "concert" we did: It was a mournful occasion for our boys (they'd never seen such wretched children before -- kids with a leg missing, lying in bed with IVs running into them, or dying of cancer) but they brought joy into their lives -- if only momentarily -- so our children came away with the feeling of gratefulness for their own good health looming larger in their thoughts than the gratification of having done a good deed."
From an article in the Mayo Clinic's house organ “The Mayovox”:
The Sullivan boys stole the spotlight with their first public appearance at the annual alumni reunion dinner Thursday, May 24, at St. Pious X Church Hall. Kip, Christy, Jeff, and Danny Sullivan, the young sons of Dr. and Mrs. C. R. Sullivan, appeared each with a musical instrument accompaniment to join in vocal renditions of rock and roll music. Watching on the sidelines were the two youngest Sullivans who held hands over their ears as their older brothers performed. The youngsters entertained about 400 alumni of St. Mary's School of Nursing.
Myra on the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 22, Monday through October 28:
Last week was a poor week for writing -- or doing anything ordinary. The Cuban threat (for views and analyses check with JRL [her brother] -- I give only a mother's and an an unenlightened citizen's reactions) kept me teetering on the edge of hysteria. I reorganized my food shelves, despaired over meager supply of water, fretted about incomplete shelter, and moved more books to the Rumpus Room shelves. The thought of all these good books upstairs being radiated makes me recall with horror the Anatole France (?) story of the Shakespeares and Bibles whirling through space on an empty planet. There is still so much which must be added to the shelter to make it safe and habitable and life-supporting for a month (probably a pitifully underestimated amount of time if we should survive a holocaust that it makes me weep)."
RJL, October 23, 1962:
This is a dangerous day. I listened to President last night as I am sure did you. Whether he is right or not, who are we to say? So far, radio reports indicated that those in power and places of influence support his action in a blockade of Cuba. But how on earth (or water) we can stop and search Russian ships without bringing on another war is not apparent to me. Perhaps a thermo-nuclear war is the only method to put an end to the Russian threat. But one wonders who will be here to enjoy that peace should it be won. (Put 'won' in quotation marks.) We hear heavy planes flying south over Florida -- one is roaring by as I write, and I suppose this is part of the concentration of forces in this area.
RJL, October 28, 1962:
Got to stay up to see Dorothy [Kilgallen] and Arlene [Francis], my favorite actresses -- about whom your mother kids me. I, up to 11:00, for a TV show. No fool like an old fool. . . . This may go down in history as a great day, but we must hold our breath. Just heard Khrushchev’s letter read on TV and it is difficult to believe that he actually has accommodated himself to the lines laid down by President Kennedy i.e. that he will take those offensive weapons out of Cuba, in return for our promise not to invade that hapless island. I am unable to understand why he has taken this turn. There must be a sly hitch in it somewhere. Perhaps it is to appear before the world as the great champion of peace and also the great protector of poor little Cuba. He saves that people from the brutal Yankee. His sending of missiles there was just a ruse to bring about prohibition of Yankee attack. Who can say?
RJL on the Missile Crisis, November 16, 1962:
The news from Cuba is not good this morning. That wild man Castro says he will shoot down the next reconnaissance plane from the USA which 'violates his air space.' First thing we know we will be landing troops down there. The First Armored Division is engaging in landing operations down at Ft. Pierce this very day, radio says. At Athenian Club last night I was surprised by the attitude of the members -- about 100% for landing in Cuba NOW and get that island 'cleaned up.' If that represents the feeling of the average American, it won't be long before we are at war, sure enough, with Cuba. This week before Thanksgiving does promise to be one for which we have not too much to be thankful about. The men at the meeting last night said that there have been some evidences of 'panic' in south Florida. In Sanford, a doctor piled his family into car and left state as well as his practice. He will not be very popular when he gets back. One of the local Food Fairs was well cleaned out, the day after Kennedy made dramatic announcement. And in the Dade County area, several families are reported to have flown. But how much of this is heresay.
Monnie’s diary entry on November 28, 1962:
Rubert stricken about 11:30 pm. Oh -- my precious husband. • RJL suffered a small stroke.
Monnie’s diary, November 29, Thursday:
My wonderful husband entered the hospital at 12:45 am. How my heart ached. Dr. Carter and Roger decided it best to get Dad to Rochester as soon as possible.
Entries from Monnie's diary, December 6 through the 24th:
[Dec. 6:] I had appointment at Clinic and went to hospital to see my sweetheart. I am so grateful that I have him and that his trouble is not caused by a brain tumor. It was a joy to bring him home this afternoon. [Dec. 8:] Myra left this morning to drive to St. Paul to meet Roger. He has returned from trip to Columbus, Ga. [Dec. 9:] Myra and Roger came home this morning. Brought a Christmas tree and it was trimmed today. [Dec. 11:] Myra gave talk today to 2 classes at school. Dad went along and while there had double vision. [Dec. 12:] Myra had her Christmas bridge party and I met the splendid group of young women. [Dec. 16:] Roger pierced my ears this morning. [Dec. 23:] Children opened gifts received from relatives and each other. Also gifts to us and Myra and Roger. [Dec. 24:] I went to town to attend to a few errands. What a crowd! And Oh! how cold. My feet about froze.
A recovered RJL, December 29, 1962:
Here I sit in my accustomed place and before me, on Hi-Fi, is the lovely picture of our wonderful daughter, in whose home we were for most of this month. ... how often we say “What is Myra doing now?” and 'What a wonderful daughter we have.' And feel sorry for ourselves that we are so far away and so suddenly, just whisked off through the air, leaving you there “all alone” -- no pop or mom to look after you in that frozen land!
RJL, December 30, 1962:
See that the Packers play Giants at 2:00, but doubt we will be on hand. I make no doubt that the Rumpus Room at 'Stone will be packed. Your mother said yesterday that her greatest pleasure was to hear Myra shout at TV professional football. Oh, that we could hear that this afternoon!
RJL on a retirement home they’ve been looking at, April 18, 1963:
Speaking of Wesley Manor your mother, once uninterested, is now a fervent convert. Would leave for there tomorrow, if the place were ready. But it will be mid-summer '64 before we can take that step. 90 minutes nearer to Jim! I doubt that I am as enthusiastic as she. . . . I figger that we shall have to pay what they call a Founder's Fee of about $20,000, perhaps a bit more. This sum is to take care of all medical care from now till the trumpet blows. Of course, we also pay $310 per month for grub and utilities. A wonderful arrangement. For those who can raise the money. I note with interest that these retirement centers are increasingly under construction.
Myra mentions the terrible accident Mr. Plunkett has on his horse, the one Roger operates on at St. Mary’s, April 30, 1963:
Dick Plunkett. . . received severe injuries from a bucking horse Sunday. Roger was operating on him from 1:00 till 5:30 (I mean he was at the hospital that long caring for him -- the actual surgical procedure was of course not that lengthy). Separated symphysis pubis. He was in critical condition but if his kidneys don't shut down or an embolus flip off, he'll make it."
RJL, on the news of the times, May 9, 1963:
As usual the Huntley-Brinkley report just concluded. I said to your mother, 'Is there any god news anymore?' The usual Soviet threat, war threatened in Haiti, the Black Muslim agent arrives in Washington D.C., more threats of racial violence in Birmingham, a Britisher is on trial in Moscow for espionage -- strangely, no news of bloodshed in what was once Indo-China --- oh yes, Nassar and Syria at odds. So it goes. In ten minutes on comes Cronkite and his broadcast. We listen, but I swear I don't know why. All you learn is trouble and trouble.
RJL, on his retirement, May 20, Monday:
Tonight is my last lecture. Really, I am not tearful that a pedagogical career of 44 years is soon terminated. • When I visited Stetson University in March of 1992, I was able to walk around the main building, Elizabeth Hall, and look into the empty classrooms RJL once taught in. Not a soul was around so I took the opportunity to sneak into one room and write on the blackboard, "Your professor today is Rubert J. Longstreet."
RJL gets wistful about his lakeside home, June 10, 1963:
Have been at TV and reading -- plus half hour out in yard at sunset -- especially when yard is smoothly mowed I like to walk about my estate. And as I view it, I consider, with no pleasure, the fact this may be our last summer here on Lake Winnemissett. We have loved it here. If it were not for your mother's poor health, I doubt that we would leave. But she really is in no condition to “keep house” much longer. The orthopedic corset has failed to give her comfort, I regret to report, so, if we can sell, I guess we are in our last year here at LW."
RJL on the horrible Governor Wallace, June 11, 1963:
This is the day the asinine Alabama governor makes good his promise to stand in the door at Tuscaloosa. I await with some anxiety the development of this tragic situation. If Kennedy relentlessly continues in his design to enforce the law, I honestly believe that it will cost the Democratic Party the '64 election. I hope he has the courage to add his own name to the list in Profiles In Courage. But it is a sad day for America -- June 11, 1963. . . . the governor chickened out when bayonets glistened. I suppose his main point was to make this necessary to rouse confederate support.
RJL bemoans the racism of the times, June 12, 1963:
Bemoaning our vaunted civilization. The brutal murder, by high-powered rifle from a hidden place of safety, of the Negro in Jackson, Mississippi, as he walked up to his own front door last night. I can't get it out of my mind.
RJL sees a launch trail from nearby Cape Canaveral, June 27, 1963:
We were sitting in our room in the annex when suddenly “Lightning” [the hotel’s handicapped errand boy] was heard to shriek something unintelligible outside -- it sounded like a note of distress. Jim and I rushed outside and what the boy (he’s 42) was yelling was “Missile! Missile!” As quick as we understood, we looked southeast and there indeed was a launching from Cape Canaveral, some 60 to 70 miles away!! It was the first one we had seen, and it surely was a sight. We saw the “booster” drop off, and stretching out behind was a long tail (I suppose catching the rays of the sun which had set two hours ago). Great spectacle, especially at night. So glad it came off while Jim was here. None of the rest of the family saw it.
Myra, July 9, 1963, Tuesday:
Every Sunday night I am bombarded with demands [from Kip] for reasons for me refusing to allow him to drive to Minneapolis and every Monday night I am entertained by descriptions of the horrors and inconveniences of bus travel (last night's ammunition was complaint against a “tubucular homo” who was “breathing at” him for 2 hours).
RJL, July 11, 1963:
Morning radio tells of sad, sad Negro uprisings in various parts of the country. Severe riot in Savannah. I look at my four intelligent negroes in night class and wonder what is in their minds. Very polite -- but do they really hate us? Wouldn’t blame them. I fear more trouble, rather than less.
RJL, August 5, 1963:
I have been so disturbed by opposition to the treaty [to ban nuclear testing in the air] that I actually worry about it when I should be asleep! The final results will not affect me. I'll be dangling my legs over the battlements of some heaven or other before the story is at its end. But I sure do hate to think of my nine grandchildren breathing nuclear poison into their little bodies. And worse, I tremble to think what would happen to them if the Goldwaters and Towers have their way and launch a nuclear war. Unthinkable as it is, that is what they want to do. Or so I interpret their machinations. Of course they deny any such intentions. But their recommendations for the nation march right down that road. Well, let's quit this sad subject and go out to mow the lakeside yard.
RJL, August 27, 1963:
Have not got habit of sitting before TV until 9 and might as well admit it. . . . Schools here open September 3, and the school board, at long last, is assigning some Negro children to white schools. But no whites to Negro schools. That would cause an uproar. And there may be trouble over the few Negroes sent to white schools. We wait with interest -- and some trepidation. This also goes for so-called “March On Washington” which comes off tomorrow. Your mother just said, 'The segregationists will have somebody there to throw a bomb or something.' Let us fervently hope that tomorrow passes without incident. We shall spend part of the day more or less glued to Cyclops.
RJL after watching Martin Luther King’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963:
It is over, and if you hear M.L. King's oration, I think you will agree that it was a masterpiece. And so far, no violence of any sort, for which praises be.
RJL bemoans more racist evil, September 15, 1963:
The horrible news of the bombing of the Negro Sunday school in Birmingham has just come on the radio. It is not believable that there could be such debased wretches in our society! And of course the criminals will not be apprehended, and if they are, little will be done about it. This is the most dastardly crime in my memory.
RJL, November 2, 1963:
Profound sadness overwhelms me when I consider the lot of the Negro, anywhere, but of course especially in such degenerate places of Mississippi. My first sight of Negro demonstrators was before [can't read] cafeteria in Daytona Beach day before yesterday. Five Negroes and one white man were slowly walking back and forth, the leader with a large sign “Freedom Will Come” or words to that effect. I could not resist impulse to walk up to him and touch his arm and say “Freedom will come, brother.” I should think they would hate us. I hear that they do.
Brother Jeff in a 1991 letter remembers the JFK assassination, November 22, 1963:
We were staying somewhere in Midtown. On the 22nd, we all took a subway downtown to see the Statue of Liberty. Someone on the train told us that JFK had been shot. Before we got off someone else said he had been shot in the head and Dad predicted he would die. We didn't get out to the Statue. Instead we stood along the wrought iron fence listening to someone's radio. We were walking back along the Wall Street area when we heard he had died. Dad went out and took pictures of Broadway that night. All the lights were off, restaurants were closed, and there was very little traffic. Several days later, I saw Dad openly sobbing during the funeral. He was sitting in the big chair in his study watching the event with most of us, including Mom.
Kip's 1992 letter about the assassination:
[Kip had decided he was too pissed off at Dad to stay there in NYC anymore and was heading home alone.] I recall approaching a ticket counter at the gateway in O'Hare Airport in Chicago to check in for my flight to Rochester. There were 2 or 3 men already in line but I was coming up on their left so I clearly heard one man say to the ticket agent, 'Have you heard the President was shot?' The only other thing I remember was sitting in the plane on the left bank of seats (plane still parked next to the terminal) when the captain announced Kennedy was dead. A stewardess standing ahead of me with her back to me facing toward the cockpit instantly dropped her face into her hands and began to weep.
Brother Dan’s 1992 letter about the assassination:
I was 10 or 11 years old, in the 4th grade I think. I was in the gym at Bamber Valley elementary school playing that (I forget the name) game with a ball where you hit people with the ball and avoid getting hit with the ball. An announcement was made over the school intercom -- I can recollect an image of a big boxy speaker up on the wall. All I can remember was that it didn't faze me much at that point. While the announcement was being made (was it Oscar Patzer talking?) I tried to leap up and touch the speaker. I don't think I was watching TV when Oswald was killed. Even though I remember seeing it separately, I don't have a clear memory of how the networks handled the coverage. My memory of the funeral is much clearer. It was a bright sunny snowless day in Washington, D.C. The black and white TV was on in Dad's study. I watched most of it. I saw John-John salute the coffin. I remember how I thought it was strange to have a riderless horse with boots on backwards. I remember being old enough to actually grieve Kennedy's death. On that day of the funeral I sat on the green living room couch and wept. I remember Luke or Collin asking me what I was crying about. For me, JFK became in later years the paragon of the adult male role model: handsome, smart, powerful, friendly. I wish my memory served me better on this point: how the image of JFK developed in my childhood mind. I wonder how important the influence of the TV media was. It was new to everyone back then.
Myra, November 22, 1963, Friday:
It is 10:30 and I am tired. But before I leave this day, it is fitting that I should write down its date as one none of us will ever forget. So exhausted am I in mind and spirit that I cannot find other words. Good night my dear ones, I know how much this day's infamy has shaken you. Good night.
RJL, November 22, Friday:
[In large letters and red ink]: Horrors compounded. In the library about 2:00 I heard the terrible news. I am too full of grief for further writing."
Monnie's letters, November 22, Friday:
We have done nothing since learning of the tragedy. The news gave me a double shock. Poppa came out of the public library and the way he walked down the steps I knew something was wrong. He seemed to stagger. He covered one side of his face with his hand and his expression was terrible. I tore off my seat belt and slid over to open the door saying “What is the matter?” Tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. He tried to speak but his voice broke and he could hardly speak. The few seconds it took for him to tell me seemed like an eternity. “Our President has been shot and killed.” I have never seen him so upset and he himself says he does not know why he was so effected. I almost expected to see his face distorted when he took his hand down. I thought that he had had a stroke or some terrible episode had struck him while in the library.
Monnie’s diary, November 23, Saturday:
No advertising on TV. All bands broadcast events of the sad events since yesterday 1pm. We spend our entire day and evening watching.
Dear Myra and all: What a terrible day, this, in our country! What can one say. I am writing the morning after the black day. I wonder where you were when the shocking news came. On the way to town, about 2 p.m., and the first stop was at the DeLand public library. There, the librarian solemnly said, “Do you know the President has been shot?” I said, in momentary bewilderment, “What president?” I suppose that my first reaction was our University President. But instantly I realized what he meant. I almost staggered out and down the steps to the car, tears almost blinding my eyes, and in a broken voice, I told your mother what had happened. That moment we shall never forget. We never have radio on during the day. Otherwise we would have heard the first report, for it must have been nearly an hour after the assassination that we learned of it. We rushed back home and sat glued before the TV for the next five or six hours. Emotionally exhausted we went to bed at 8:30. [Later:] Watched TV in fascination from 7 to 10. I marvel at the self-possession of Jackie. Did you notice the blood stains on her stockings as she got into hearse with body? Must have been on dress, too, but I did not notice. Wonderful woman, in my opinion. We, here, are shocked by reaction of first few people we met after the news. Not one of them expressed any emotion -- just curiosity. Or so it seemed to us. I suppose JFK was one of the most hated of presidents -- by the Ku Kluxers, of course, by “big business,” by professional anti-Communists and various groups of malcontents. [Later:] Took hour off to nap . . . I am ashamed that U. of F. and U. of M. do not cancel game, but play tonight. I learned that Minnesota does the proper thing. Who could cheer a football team on an occasion such as this? The GOP has, of course, benefited by this crime. Johnson is far from a Kennedy. In fact, I never fancied LBJ. I doubt very much he can be elected. It is going to be a strain to listen to all of this for three and a half days. [Later, 8pm:] I am wondering whether you are spending any time on TV. I took off an hour for yard work, another for a nap, but otherwise it seems to me I have been eye-ing TV from 7am till now. Fascinating, but occasional respite is helpful. Right now, your Minnesota senator is on -- I admire him , as you know. . . . A pitiful sight -- the rocking chair being wheeled down the hall, as they cart away the personal possessions in office of JFK.
RJL, November 24, Sunday:
Rain and despondency keep us home instead of to church. . . . Now we watch a service in Westminster Abbey. The marvel of TV. Martyrdom of course magnifies the man. There is surely an outpouring of praise for JFK. This is truly an amazing four days, so far as commercial TV and radio are concerned. Not one single bit of advertising. Wonderful relief amid sadness. And truly remarkable that 24 hours after 24 hours, the nation sees and hears only one topic. [12:30] Murder again!! Too excited to write!! What an event! More later. [1:30] We are watching the procession to the Capitol. Better view than if on one of those crowded sidewalks. [1:55 pm:] Now the casket is being carried up the steps. Jackie's face, all though, utterly expressionless. I never saw such complete impassivity. How can it be? [Later, and in red ink again:] Oswald is dead! I am thankful and horrified. Thus an execution is evaded. What a horrible affair! But two wrongs do not make a right. [Later, 3:30 pm:] 'They say' that some of those now moving through the Rotunda have been in line since midnight. Incredible! . . . If the exciting few minutes in the basement of Dallas City Hall jail (wonder if by any chance you saw it) I said a few minutes before that we'd be lucky to escape a lynching. And this is just what happened! Did you read that Billy Graham had a 'vision' that the President should not go to Dallas and warned against the trip? Also that members of his staff advised against it. Dallas is a hot-bed of extremists. Now Dallas has the shame of being in history as the site of the assassination of a President. I wonder if TV will continue this procession hour after hour. I have taken the time off to type the inserted pages from Grandpa Longstreet's journal written 98 years ago on the occasion of the assassination of Lincoln. It seemed appropriate at this sad time.
RJL, November 25, 1963, Monday:
I enclose a newspaper clipping and the sentiments therein espoused I agree with. What frightens me is that so many people seem to feel that it was right to shoot Oswald because he was a Communist and allegedly shot the President. A 'respectable' local businessman was quoted as saying “Well, that's one way to get rid of 'em.” . . . And they are still filing by the coffin. All night long. We have done almost nothing since 2:30 pm Friday but sit before TV. Now Congressmen and families are going by. Just saw Adlai in the Rotunda. How he is hated by the rich and well-born. One shudders and wonders why. 1:30. And now Jack has started on his last three miles. 3 pm: I took a nap and now the grave site is being approached. A glimpse of her face; she is impassive. Now the 21-gun salute. The end is near. Jack has but six more feet to travel. But I believe his soul is in heaven. TAPS!!! How often I heard it in WWI! Poor Jack. 'Tis over. Requiescat in pace.
Myra, November 26, 1963, Tuesday:
I write this date and then there is too much and nothing to say. This is the day after his funeral. The ranks have closed up and we move on. This has been such a shattering event that even when we shall have forgotten it, it has left its scar and we are changed by it. No one of us is the same person we were last Friday noon. I am still dazed -- I cannot write about it -- yet we talk of nothing else and think of nothing else. The grim sound of those fateful drums is still in my ears. My sense of emptiness and personal loss is too overwhelming -- and the mind still reels away from the reality. I have never lived such days of intense emotion and the knowledge that every person in the country feels the same is little solace. If we feel this way, how insupportable must be the grief of those who knew him. If you have seen Keith Hanson you know already how the news reached me and what I was doing when his death was announced. I now do not remember what -- if any -- was the time I dated my last letter to you. But without any doubt I must have been writing to you at the very moments those bullets were shot. I had set my timer for 12:35 so that I could leave in time to keep my appointment with Keith Hanson. As the timer went off I was addressing the envelope. I left immediately (12:40?) and as I was turning onto the Institute Road the radio announcer said that word had just been received that the President and Gov. Connally had been shot down in the streets of Dallas. My only reaction was to wonder -- quite idly – “The president of what?” That was to be the last casual thought. It was not until Keith and I were passing St. Mary's Hospital that we learned where he had been shot. When I heard that it was a head wound, and that he was unconscious, then indeed we had to give up the hope that this would be only brief excitement of no real consequence. Keith and I sat in the living room listening to the radio (I forgot about TV until after 3:00) saying nothing that two strangers usually say -- only staring at one another saying, 'It can't be, it can't be.' Shortly after one o'clock came the bare announcement 'He is dead.' [Later she continued:] Kip was alone in Chicago when he heard the news, waiting at the proper gate for his flight to Rochester. A Naval officer revealed it to those standing at the gate. It was aboard the plane that the pilot announced his death. There, as everywhere, none could accept it as real. Kip climbed into the car and we never spoke (other than our mutual “Have you heard?”) -- listening with horror to the radio. Roger called about 3:00 to say he and the other two were leaving -- and there was no longer any pleasure in being in NYC. They were on a subway when some one gave them the news -- they had only moments before left NBC where they had been watching the news being hung in great sheets. Had they stayed a few minutes longer they'd have seen the word as it first came to NYC. When they left the subway (they were on their way to the Statue of Liberty) they saw an old Jewish man standing in the street, holding a transistor radio, crying. Gathering about the old man, Roger, Jeff & Christy, and others strange to each other heard the news of his death. St. Patrick's Cathedral, across the street from their hotel [the Astor Hotel], was full, people standing outside on the steps as they (R., J. & Ch.) came back. It was full the rest of the time they were in NYC, the streets nearly empty, lights off, quiet. One of the newspapers they brought home was an 'extra,' on the streets before 2:00 EST, with the giant headline “JFK SHOT” and the “news” that Johnson too was wounded. Those papers are to be saved -- along with the two others I have. The ending of the European war -- and Glenn's flight. [Later on she continues:] As you, we sat for long unbroken hours watching the TV. From 7:00 in the morning until late in the evening for three uninterrupted days. Today, the world seems to have resumed its ordinary pace and the last four days are but a nightmare. Stationed as we were with so seldom a break, it was not by chance that we witnessed that second horror in Dallas -- the murder of Oswald! . . . Kip, who sat through Friday evening with me, said he did not understand why I was crying. Shock, horror, dismay, but not tears. However, I saw that twice on Monday, the tears stood high in his own eyes. [Written much later:] Even my Republican husband was crying several times that dark weekend. [And then again, much later:] But as Montaigne said: 'No one dies before his hour: the time you leave behind was no more yours than that which was lapsed and gone before you came into this world. Whenever your life ends, it is all there. The utility of living consists not in the length of days, but in the use of time.' Wherein I find much comfort.
A letter from Myra’s brother, Jimmy, to his father, RJL, December 7, 1963:
The assassination of Pres. Kennedy laid a blanket of stunned disbelief over our entire family two weeks ago. For three days we watched the events unfold on our television set, not quite able to accept the reality of what was taking place. The sudden death of a President carries its own special shock, but I believe it was for more a function of his youth and personality, than his office, that made it seem such a terrible blow. . . . While my immediate reaction was that Johnson would find it almost impossible to follow in the Presidential “shoes” I am tremendously relieved by the events that have proceeded at such a rapid pace since the 22nd. My initial fear was that the “SOUTH” was again to be damned en masse for the actions of a single man. The fact that it was a Texas city, rather than New York or Detroit, seemed to put it in such a 'PAT' format for the special type of Bigotry that has grown up among the professional liberals of the North. Thank God, Oswald turned out to be an emotionally disturbed communist or Marxist, rather than a 'red-neck' from the segregationists. If the killer had escaped, or it if had been done by a fanatic in the civil rights field, I am sure than there would have been years of punitive press and legislation based on the actions of a single man. . . . Denied the ability to blame the south as a cultural unit, our editorial press and sermonizing politicians have turned to a blanket indictment of our society. It seems strange to me that a country whose leaders have for decades found it safe and desirable to have the President mingle with the public, ride exposed in parades, shake hands by the thousands, stump by train, etc, should now suddenly be characterized as violence prone. . . . Given the continuous exposure of our leaders to the eyes and hands of their constituents, it is inevitable that they run the risk of assassination. No possible policy or FBI arrangements can possibly stop a thoughtful attack. They are designed to prevent the unthinking assault, not the planned use of modern weapons. The fact that our Presidents have always moved too freely and openly testified to the quality of our society far more eloquently than this one disaster. . . Diane goes into the hospital on the eighteenth. They will operate on the nineteenth. I understand that this involves breaking the main bones between the knee and ankle, and then proceeding to use some of the bone cutting equipment that Roger has described so vividly, to create a new alignment. . . . Love, Jim.
From the Rochester Post-Bulletin: "Coldest December Since 1927."